On the Front Foot: ECB chief and Cameron's pal Marland remain the best of enemies


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The Independent Online

It is one of those peculiarities of life that Giles Clarke, the top man in English cricket, and Lord Marland, his erstwhile would-be nemesis, have never met.

How tantalisingly close they came the other evening in Colombo. The two men were dining in the same downtown restaurant on separate tables. They were never more than a good-length ball apart but they did not acknowledge each other's presence.

Clarke is the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, Marland the man who briefly stood against him for the office two years ago and is now one of the owners of The Cricketer magazine. They said some beastly things about each other then, before Marland withdrew his candidacy when it became clear the votes were all going the other way.

Last month, Clarke wasre-elected unopposed for another three-year period, which may indicate what a jolly good job he is doing but is hardly healthy for cricketing democracy. He has attended both Test matches in Sri Lanka in his official capacity.

Marland, under-secretary for state for energy and friend of the Prime Minister, is here in his capacity as a deep-rooted lover of the game, who has long sought to become more involved after making a City fortune.

They are different kinds of chaps. But you never know, Clarke and Marland might have forged the beginning of a beautiful friendship at the London Grill to take cricket forward into a brave world. They chose not to.

Sitting on fence over Sofa

It is fascinating that Giles Clarke has not uttered a dickie about The Cricketer's acquisition of laddish online commentary site Test Match Sofa (still mildly irreverent, faintly diverting, nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is).

He is a great defender of broadcasting rights holders. Sofa, available in foreign parts where Test Match Special is not, is breaking no laws, however, since commentating from the telly might be irritating but is not illegal. Marland, in line with a non-interference policy, has been equally silent about Sofa.

Why not a gong for Knott?

Alan Knott, probably England's greatest wicketkeeper/batsman, is 66 tomorrow. By the time he is 67 it would be superb to introduce him as Alan Knott MBE (or OBE). He is one of the few great cricketers of his era not to have received a gong, along with the great fast bowler John Snow, and the former captain Tony Greig.

Many of the present team have already been invested into some order or other, with Alastair Cook being the most recent. With due respect to Cook, who may score enough runs one day to elicit the top accolade, he is not Knott. Or Snow. Or Greig.

Greig, to whom the modern cricketer owes a great debt, is at last being rehabilitated. He will deliver the Cowdrey Spirit of Cricket Lecture at Lord's later this year shortly after the Birthday Honours. Redemption would be complete if he was introduced with letters after his name.

Flower to bloom at Marathon

Between preparing England to win, or in the event draw, a Test series, Andy Flower has been running himself into a humidity-drenched frazzle. He is competing (Flower plays nothing simply for fun) in the London Marathon on 22 April.

The sight of Flower running round the outfield post-match in Sri Lanka, sometimes in company with the bowling coach, David Saker, has been common. It is not Saker whose temple-like body will accompany Flower in a fortnight, however, but the team's psychologist, Mark Bawden.

Flower's longest run so far has been 15 miles, along the Galle coast road, starting at 5.30am to avoid the heat of the day. Three charities, Hope For Children, the Lord's Taverners and Factor 50, will benefit (you can donate at justgiving.com/Andy-Flower).

"I don't even want to think whether I can run 26 miles but I know I have to do it," he says. "There is no discussion."